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Mpls, MN, United States

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rolling

So one of my classmates holds season tickets to the Minnesota Roller Girls, and since her partner had to be out of town for this week's bout, she invited me to join her. Last night we went to see the MNRG's two All-Star teams, composed of players from Saint Paul's four teams, battle the Charm City Roller Girls from Maryland and the Tent City Terrors from Arizona. You can learn all about the teams, players, and rules here.

The event was held at the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium in Saint Paul, and we sat about three rows back from the flat track. It's hard for me to describe coherently what happened, as I found the whole thing rather baffling; it was simultaneously intriguing and vaguely repellent. Watching women of a variety of body sizes zip around wearing creative uniforms (most often featuring miniskirts and tights--some fishnet, and at least one pair metallic silver) emblazoned with their unique names* does hold a certain attraction; watching them crash into one another and, on at least three separate occasions throughout the evening, get into rather brutal fights, may have been part of the draw for some of the spectators, but really wasn't my scene.

The basic idea is that each team has a "jammer," whose job it is to skate through the "pack" of other players comprised of both her teammates and opponents. Once she makes it through the pack the first time, she attempts to repeat the process as many times as she can, earning points for every opposing team member she passes whilst within bounds. Players are allowed to throw shoulder- and hip blocks, which means plenty of girls go flying onto and off the track. There are also nifty moves where teammates can grab hands and launch each other forward, and there's some impressive skating going on.

My camera still isn't recording pictures, so I shot this video. The sound is all weird again and it stops in the middle (click the triangle), but hopefully it will give you a small sense of the sport:
video

Oh, and? The halftime show was a polka band, and the audience danced on the track. Crazy times.

Afterward, we ate at Mickey's Diner (featured in A Prairie Home Companion--remember?) and it was so cold (7 degrees) that there was ice on the inside of the windows.

*Apparently no two derby girls can have the same name; there's even a national roster!

5 comments:

Ellen said...

I think the sound distortion heightens the sense of drama.

Curly Sue said...

Wow...that's weird. I've seen bits of roller derby on TV, but never known anyone who's seen it live.

I wonder what a roller girl does when she retires from active derby play. I noticed that on the national roster, most were added in either 2006 or 2007. Lots of turnover, I guess.

Norah Torious said...

Interesting to read your blog about your first derby experience. It is a fast and fascinating game and I hope you had a good time (though it sounds like you were a little mixed on the experience).

To answer the question about what we do when we retire ... we're all unpaid amateurs, we do this for fun, exercise, and camaraderie. We all have day jobs. So we go back to doing more of the things we did before derby like having some leisure time (we practice three times a week), seeing friends we haven't seen for a while, and joining other sports leagues perhaps.

Derby has been growing really fast around the country the past couple years. When the Minnesota RollerGirls started in 2004, there were less than 10 leagues in the country. Now there are 48 in the national governing body we belong to (Women's Flat Track Derby Association, WFTDA) and dozens more who are either on their own or working on gaining entrance to WFTDA. And it's gone worldwide with leagues in Germany, London, Toronto, and even Australia!

The sport is pretty tough on the body, but there are quite a few 4 year vets in the Minnesota RollerGirls.

Daniel said...

So which were your favorite names?

Ern said...

That's so weird, because I never really knew anything about roller derby, but I recently started reading a blogger who just became a rollergirl. She's a great writer, and it's kind of interesting to read about her experience with it.

http://www.schnozzfest.com/blog/?p=573